Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Madryn McCabe’

Women in Theatre, The Canadian Canon & Finding Humour in Dark Subject Matter – In Conversation with Tyler Seguin, director of The Trial of Judith K

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I had a chance to talk to Tyler Seguin, director of The Trial of Judith K., presented by Thought for Food about humour in dark subject matter, women in theatre and the Canadian canon.

MM: Tell me about the Trial of Judith K.

TS: It’s a modern, Canadian take on Franz Kafka’s The Trial, set in 1980s Vancouver, with a female protagonist. It’s fast, funny, sexy, dark and violent.

MM: What made you want to direct this show? What drew you to it?

TS: The first thing that drew me to The Trial of Judith K. is the way it mixes comedy and darkness. As a person, I’m interested in big ideas and strong political statements, but as an artist I’m not really interested in didactic storytelling. Judith K. deals with some serious issues like legal disenfranchisement, the security state, oppressive cultural norms and the objectification/exploitation of women, but it does so with humour, which makes it all the more powerful. Laughter opens people up and disarms them, allowing the “Important Statement” to slip into their minds unnoticed.

We’re all breathing more freely with a new PM in the House, but we chose this play during peak Harper years. And despite the “sunny ways” of Trudeau, Bill C-51 is still on the books, and every single time I open the paper there’s another example of a Kafkaesque justice system at work in Canada, not to mention the rest of the world.

I’m also looking for opportunities for strong visuals with elements of movement and physical theatre. As far as I’m concerned, theatre isn’t a realistic art form and I am frustrated by plays that pretend to be a verbatim representation of the real world. The Trial of Judith K. revels in its theatricality.

Stephanie Belding. Photo by John Gundy

Stephanie Belding. Photo by John Gundy

After The Memo, it was important to us that the next project be a play with a stronger female voice. The Trial of Judith K. is written by a woman, with a female lead and more women than men in the cast. It’s also an older Canadian script, which appealed to us. The Trial of Judith K. was nominated for major prizes including the Governor General’s Award and the Dora for Best New Play, but it hasn’t been revisited professionally since 1989. It feels like we’re a community obsessed with creating new work, but are we really developing a Canadian canon if a script is only performed once?

MM: What do you feel is the role of theatre companies when it comes to representing the Canadian canon, even if that company’s mandate isn’t specifically to develop or showcase Canadian playwrights?

TS: There’s room for all kinds of theatre and nobody should feel beholden to anyone else’s idea of what theatre “should be.” But it seems that companies are either “new work” or “classics” and when they say “classics” it’s British, or American classics. People are now starting to explore the European canon, but very rarely do we see previously-produced Canadian plays. We were so happy to see Factory produce a whole season of previous hits, and Passe Muraille is starting a celebration series this year. But generally TPM and Factory produce seasons of entirely new work. Great! We need to develop new work, but that’s 8-10 plays that will probably only be seen once and then forgotten. And that’s just two local theatres – how many more new plays are being produced across the country? And what does that do to playwrights? If you’re not constantly producing something new, you’re yesterday’s news. And they’re being expected to put in years and years of development for a show that’ll run for possibly 5 weeks. That’s no way to create a history. Part of the problem is with our funding models. The major granting bodies are very interested in supporting the development and presentation of new work and we were actually told that since we were choosing to do an older play that we needed to make a stronger case for why we wanted to produce it.

MM: There are themes in Judith K that are similar to your last production, The Memo. Both discuss the absurdity of bureaucracy, and the down-the-rabbit-hole way of navigating it. Is Judith K a deliberate follow up to The Memo?

TS: Yes and no. Yes, there are a lot of similarities to The Memo – both stories essentially deal with one person’s fight against “The System” – but we weren’t deliberately looking for a thematic follow-up to The Memo. We wanted to find a play that would meet certain parameters: female protagonist, more women than men, Canadian, and ideally something that would let us get back in touch with the Czech community who were so incredibly supportive of The Memo. We read several plays and eventually we started looking at Kafka. There are several stage adaptations of The Trial but when we discovered Sally’s play, not only were we able to check off all the boxes, but we were excited by the material itself.

MM: The Trial of Judith K is based on Franz Kafka’s The Trial, making the protagonist a woman and setting it in the 1980s. What do you think that brings to the story?

TS: There’s an added layer of the patriarchal nature of “The System” and its inherent misogyny. In the world of Judith K. anyone can get caught up in the system, but when a woman is the accused, her body becomes part of the negotiation. The men who offer to help her, want something physical/sexual in return. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling and disturbing.

Stephanie Belding, Scott McCulloch. Photo by John Gundy

Stephanie Belding, Scott McCulloch. Photo by John Gundy

MM: I hear the design elements are very important to the show as well. Can you tell me about that?

TS: Since the show takes place in several locations, we needed a set that was flexible enough to create multiple looks using the same few pieces. We are also somewhat limited by being in the TPM Backspace – the stage is tiny. However, it has a lot of height, which we’ve also taken into consideration with our set. We wanted to evoke a sense of claustrophobia – that everything towers over Judith. We were also looking at ways of incorporating the 80s (when the play was written) and the 20s (when the novel was originally published). Expressionism blossomed in the 20s and neo-expressionism popped up in the 80s so there’s actually a lot of similarities – geometric shapes, large shoulders, the use of light & shadow are all elements we’re integrating into the design. Many music videos from the 80s owe a lot to German expressionist films. Once we started looking for the connections, they were incredibly obvious.

As well, our sound designer is playing with songs that straddle both eras while also highlighting the distinctions, such as contrasting the synth-sounds of the 80s with scratchy phonograph recordings from the 20s.

MM: Why do you think The Trial of Judith K was written as a comedy instead of a moral-imbuing drama?

TS: The source material is actually quite comedic. Kafka is funny. He’s taken on this aura of “serious writer” but his work is full of humour. We found this with The Memo as well – it’s something about the Czech psyche, they’re able to take awful, depressing situations and find the humour in them. We spoke to Sally Clark and apparently the original commission for Judith K. was a serious drama about a hostage situation and that it was the original director, Morris Panych, who suggested it should be a comedy.

MM: How do you manage the comedy with such dark and, sometimes disturbing, subject matter?

TS: We’re definitely walking a tightrope with this show. Terrible things happen throughout – assault, torture, murder, and execution are all in the story and we don’t want anyone to think that we’re taking it lightly. People should be disturbed. Our ideal tempo is “Funny – Funny – Funny – Disturbing – Funny – Funny – Funny – Is that funny? – Why did I laugh at that?” Laughing at disturbing material doesn’t mean we’re making fun of it. Humour is a powerful tool and a coping mechanism. If we can laugh at something it ceases to have power over us. So while the show has a sheen that is heightened comedy – the characters are based in Commedia, and the style is almost farcical – we are actually using this stylization to comment on some pretty horrible situations.

MM: Is there anything that you want our readers to know about the show?

TS: It feels like we’ve been talking a lot about the show’s big ideas and issues and while those are important, we want your readers to know that The Trial of Judith K. is just as funny as it is smart. Sally Clark says the overriding principle of staging this play should be “louder! faster!” The show feels a little like a sitcom run amok – the situations are wacky, the characters are outlandish and the jokes pile up on top of each other. The material can also edge into the grotesque, and the nihilism runs deep, but first and foremost it’s a comedy. Until it isn’t.

The Trial of Judith K.

Presented by Thought for Food Theatre

Scott McCulloch, Stephanie Belding. Photo by John Gundy

Scott McCulloch, Stephanie Belding. Photo by John Gundy

Who:
Directer: Tyler Seguin
Assistant Director: Tamara Vuckovic
Fight Director: Siobhan Richardson
Set Design: David Poholko
Costume Design: Miranda VanLogerenberg
Lighting Design: Jareth Li
Sound Design: Alex Eddington

Starring:
Stephanie Belding
Toni Ellwand
Patrick Howarth
Andrew Knowlton
Helen Juvonen
Scott McCulloch
Cara Pantalone

What: A sexy, funny, and thought-provoking adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial returning to Toronto stages. 

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)

When: January 28-February 14, 2016

Tickets: www.artsboxoffice.ca

Connect:

thought4food.ca

@thought4food
@TylerJSeguin

@intheGreenRoom_
@FuriousMAD

Legends, Myths and Remounts: In Conversation with Sarah Thorpe – Writer, Co-Director & Solo actor of Soup Can Theatre’s “Heretic”

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I sat down with Sarah Thorpe, writer, co-director and solo actor of Heretic, to talk about legends, myths, and doing it all over again. 

Madryn McCabe: Tell me a bit about Heretic?

Sarah Thorpe: Heretic is essentially Joan of Arc in this afterlife space, looking back on her life and the decisions she made, and questioning whether it was worth it in the end. Should she have made the decisions that she did? I wanted to frame it in that way because, obviously, Joan was killed when she was nineteen because of what she did, so every account of her story is from someone else’s perspective, someone else’s opinion… so with some artistic license, it’s her side of the story – what she was feeling, thinking, going through… I wanted to present her in a way that takes down the saintly persona that surrounds her. She’s always depicted that way in plays and in literature, and I just thought that I wanted to explore her as a regular, vulnerable human being.

MM: What inspired Heretic? Where did the idea come from?

ST: It came from a monologue from Shaw’s Saint Joan that I had done for auditions before, and I found that it really hit an emotional note with me. I thought it would be interesting to explore this emotional connection further, and explore this person. I realized that I had all these questions… What was she thinking before her execution? What was she thinking when she stepped onto the battlefield for the first time? What was going through her mind? Was she terrified? Or thinking ‘No, I’ve got this!’

MM: How much research did you have to do into Joan’s life?

ST: A fair amount of research, but I’ve certainly taken a lot of artistic license as well. Not much of Joan is known before she joined the French army and started fighting in the 100 Years War.

MM: We seem to only know about Joan of Arc the Warrior, who heard voices from God, and only just the very brief period of time when she was fighting in the war.

ST: Right! So, we know about that, and we know that she was captured and executed. But, not a whole lot is known about her life before that. We do touch on that and how she was living this life on a farm with her parents and had a simple, medieval farming existence. The 100 Years War started in the 1330s, so she was born into a period of war going on around her, born into this environment where that was sort of what they were used to. It had gone on for so long. How I interpreted the aspect of her hearing voices was her wanting so much to say ‘No, we shouldn’t put up with this. This isn’t right. We’re being occupied, and it shouldn’t be an English king on the throne. We should do something about it.’

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

MM: Do you have a writing partner, or did you tackle this story on your own?

ST: I wrote it on my own. Justin Haigh did the dramaturgy on this remount. I re-wrote the script from the original version that we did in April.

MM: I was just about to ask, how much of an overhaul has this version gotten? Is there a lot of new stuff going on? What might bring people back who have already seen it?

ST: It’s not a huge overhaul. Some scenes were rewritten, some scenes were cut completely. In doing the remount, I thought that I could write some stuff better, and go into more depth of what I could interpret into what she was thinking and feeling and going through. So, for people who saw the April production and want to come back, I would say that there’s more emotional depth, and a bit more action. It also looks completely different. We have a whole new design team. The look of the show is totally different, yet still keeps with my vision. The way I always pictured it was people coming into a space resembling a medieval tomb. It’s kept with that same idea, but in a totally different way.

MM: Did you find that things changed much in the rehearsal room as well?

ST: Rehearsal was, again, a bit different. We have the same stage manager as last year, which is great. Directing-wise-Matt Bernard directed the April production, and this time around Scott Dermody and I are co-directing. Matt and Scott have different directing styles, so it’s been different rehearsing just because of the different approaches. I feel like I’m working harder this time around! It’s not that I wasn’t into it the first time around, and I don’t know how or why, but I feel extra committed now.

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

MM: Do you find that you can easily separate all your roles as writer, director, actor, or does each one influence what the other does?

ST: I’ve gotten better at knowing when to turn off the producer brain and turn on the actor brain, or the writer brain. Certainly when I was doing the rewrites, it was really just writer brain. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. But once we started rehearsals and looked at the script from an acting perspective, I’d sometimes think ‘Why the hell would I write something that way? What was I thinking?!’ I’ve gotten better at differentiating, and what helps me is making that bit of time to focus on the different things. I have to write a little schedule… so it’s 12-1 I’ll run lines, 1-2 I’ll do a bunch of social media and post things, then I’ll look at the design that’s just been sent, and look from that perspective. And luckily, I’m sharing the directing responsibilities. I wanted to have a hand in the directing this time, as well, to have a say in the design concept but Scott really is the eyes that are making sure I’m delivering a good performance.

MM: Do you prefer this avenue of creating your own show and having so much say in the producing versus the more traditional auditioning for another company and being directed in a specific part?

ST: As an actor, this is the first time I’ve done anything like this. I hadn’t written anything outside of theatre school. I have to say that it’s really satisfying to create my own work from the ground up. As an artist, overall I’ve really enjoyed that process. I do also enjoy the more traditional process, though. There are some scripts that I’d love to tackle as a director too.

MM: What do you want people to know coming into the show?

ST: What I find exciting and compelling is that we’re introducing people to a person who is always portrayed as higher than other humans. She’s a saint, she’s holy, she’s perfect, a saviour. I find her way more interesting when we see that she screwed up sometimes and made mistakes and bad decisions and maybe she shouldn’t have done some of what she did. I find her, and I hope everyone else does, compelling to see as a vulnerable, flawed being just trying to do what she feels is right.

Heretic

Presented by Soup Can Theatre

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Photo of Sarah Thorpe by Justin Haigh

Written and Performed by Sarah Thorpe
Co-Directed by Sarah Thorpe & Scott Dermody
Scenography – Alyksandra Ackerman
Lighting Designer – Randy Lee
Sound Designer/Production Manager – Wesley McKenzie
Dramaturge – Justin Haigh
Stage Manager – Kathleen Hemsworth

When: November 11 – 22, 2015

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.

Tickets: $15-22, online: soupcantheatre.com phone: 416-504-7529, in person: 16 Ryerson Ave.

Connect: 

Soup Can Theatre: @SoupCanTheatre

Sarah Thorpe: @thorpe_s

In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_

Madryn McCabe: @FuriousMAD

 

 

In Conversation with Julia Aplin & Jacquie PA Thomas of “The Hum” at the 2015 SummerWorks Festival

Interview by Madryn McCabe

“Listen. Can you hear it?”

We sat down with Julia Aplin, one of the performers and creators of The Hum, a theatrical experience she co-created with her partner, John Gzowski, and their daughter, 10 year old Jenny Aplin.

MM: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your show?

JA: It’s called The Hum. I created it with my partner, John, and our daughter, Jenny and it’s based on Jenny’s drawings, which have come out of family discussions about books that we’re reading, and ideas that we’re talking about. A lot of her drawings are of the outdoors, from camping trips and her experience even with wildlife in the backyard, so we’ve extrapolated stories and ideas from all of that and put it all together.

MM: Is the show based off of one particular drawing?

JA: No. I remember there was one meeting between Jacquie (Thomas, The Hum’s director) and myself in my kitchen and there was a drawing that Jenny had done stuck on the fridge of a woman who was sitting in the sun, curled up. And Jacquie said, “That’s really interesting. What is that?” It was a drawing Jenny had done from a book. She has a children’s book called We Are Stardust, and I have another book called The Universe Within, which has the same kind of information, but mine was more of a scientific adult book, so we discussed the ideas, and then Jenny drew this woman in the sun. We are stardust, scientifically. The materials in our bodies, everything that we’re made of is from stars, and she knows that, and that our sun is a star, so she put it all together into this drawing of a woman in the sun.

John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Yulia Kovaleva

John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Yulia Kovaleva

 

MM: What kind of story can we expect to see?

JA: There are some stories from when I was a kid, there are some stories of Jenny and her pet snails that she found in the garden, there are some stories of John trying to explain scientifically from a sound designer’s point of view how the earth might hum. The way we work is pretty abstract; this is the most story based piece we’ve ever done. There are a lot of emotional, dance, music moments where John plays music and I dance.

MM: It doesn’t sound like it’s the kind of theatre that lends itself to a very traditional ‘we have a script and we rehearse scene by scene’ approach. Can you talk about the elements that we might see in the show?

JA: The main elements are dance, music and there’s actually text in the show too, which is rare for me. I usually have little bits of text, but this is a big step having chunks of text, that I wrote. It’s pretty exciting. Jenny wrote her monologue and John wrote his monologue and almost all the music.

MM: Jenny is in the show as well?

JA: Yes, she is. Performing, dancing, talking, drawing. Another huge element is her drawings. She does some live drawing, which is projected, and we’ve also taken some of her other drawings that she’s done and animated them. We used The Woman with the Water, because she’s talking about the concept that the same water that’s in the lakes is the same water that we drink is the same water that’s in our bodies. We’ve got an amazing animation of The Woman with the Water, so that’s onstage with us.

MM: Is this the first time that you’ve collaborated with your family?

JA: John and I have collaborated a lot before. In fact, we first performed together at TPM in the backspace together, Quartet by Eugene Stickland. That was about nineteen years ago. Since then, we’ve done a lot of collaborations. Mostly, John composes for them, and I’m either choreographing or dancing, so this is new for us, to collaborate as a family. I’ve worked with Jenny before as a teacher, choreographing a piece for her dance class or something like that, but never with her as a fellow artist. We’re really including her artistic point of view on this.

MM: I’m really getting the impression that Jenny is an equal partner in the creative process.

JA: Exactly.

MM: Is this something that you’re focusing for a younger audience or do you feel like this is a piece for everyone?

JA: My hope is that it won’t exclude anyone. So the kids that come will have an “in” to what’s going on, but also that the adults don’t feel like they’re watching Barney the Dinosaur. I hope that it speaks on different levels. The three of us are together on different levels. We have a 10 year old, and we have–I won’t say how old (she laughs)–so between all of our different points of view, we hope to be pretty inclusive.

Julia Aplin, Jenny Aplin & John Gzowski photo by Yulia Kovaleva

Julia Aplin, Jenny Aplin & John Gzowski photo by Yulia Kovaleva

MM: Do you think you’ll collaborate with your family again?

JA: That might be a question to ask me in a week or two! (she laughs) I’m sure we will. We won’t be able to help ourselves.

MM: Where does the title The Hum come from?

JA: Have you ever read The Bone series? It’s an awesome set of graphic novels by Jeff Smith. We read the first one and kept going and it became this obsession in our family. There are characters in there who talk about The Hum Hum and there’s this one character named Thorn who does this (places two fingers to her forehead) and she can feel all kinds of things. We’d go walking in the forest and do it too, and when we heard the word, it clicked that it was a word for everything we were already feeling, and then The Hum became a catch word for something that we already knew.

We know something in our bodies. Our bodies come from this earth and we’ve been here in this form for 10,000 years. But if you keep going back through evolution, back to when your mom’s mom was a fish, that’s where we’re from. If you really go deep, you can hear that, and that’s The Hum. In our modern world, we don’t really listen to it, but now science is showing us that ‘oh this is actually, really true’. We really are from stardust, we really are connected to the earth, and the scientific principles are coming forward and people now are like, “ohhhh”. Maybe we should have known this all along.

(At this point, director Jacquie PA Thomas, artistic director of Theatre Gargantua, who are co-producing The Hum as part of the SideStream Cycle joins us, and she adds this to the conversation):

JT: This is a unique family. It’s a family of two well established and beautiful artists coming from different backgrounds, who both dabble in other artistic realms. Julia is also a musician and John does some instrument making and design. When I first proposed the idea, I thought it would be exciting to understand from a child’s perspective what it was like growing up in a family of artists.

I knew that Jenny was a drawer and we’d seen some of her work, which was really quite remarkable for such a young age. I’ve known John and Julia for over twenty years and we’ve collaborated on a number of shows, so the artistic relationship goes back years. Our new stream of performances, which we are calling SideStream Cycle allows associate artists time and space to explore something freely and offers them the opportunity to experiment with form and content. Julia had never actually performed specifically as an actor, she’s never really written anything professionally for the stage, and we’ve discovered during this process that she’s a really beautiful writer. John has never, ever acted in his life, and he’s quite charming on the stage, and of course their daughter, in terms of where the ideas came from for the piece, they all sprang from her drawings. When you look at Jenny’s drawings, a lot of them are of these beautiful, strong women who have tree branches as veins, or a winged- woman looking into the sun and she has fire coming out of her. She has this really interesting way of looking at the world, and I thought that was a good beginning point. What’s it like growing up in a family of artists, and a child’s perspective on not only family, but connections to art, connections to life, connections to the world. It seemed like a really amazing opportunity for us to explore these wonderful artists.

 

The Hum

presented as part of the 2015 Summerworks Festival

11695779_922877054437936_21031712276711712_n

Julia Aplin, John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Jacquie PA Thomas

Tickets:

Online: summerworks.ca

In Person: At the SummerWorks box office at Factory Theatre & At the door of Theatre Passe Muraille, one hour before show time.

When:

Monday August 10, 4:45pm

Sunday August 16 2pm

Where:

Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue

An Interview on Theatre Archturus’ – Weïrd – An immersive original take on the witches of Macbeth

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I sat down with director Philip Psutka and actors Lindsay Bellaire, Lindsay Sippen Eitzen and Polly Phokeev to chat about their show, Weïrd, an immersive original take on the witches of Macbeth.

MM: Tell me a little bit about Weïrd.

Philip: Weïrd focuses on the witches of Macbeth and tells the story of Macbeth from the witches perspective. Essentially, what mistakes they make in picking Macbeth in the first place, and then what they have to do to go about fixing that. We use aerial silks whenever the witches are doing a charm or whenever they’re using any sort of force of nature or anything like that.

MM: Is aerial silks a medium that Theatre Arcturus often works in?

Philip: Yes. Basically any sort of rigorous element that we work with, silks or any sort of aerial apparatus are a huge part of it. And the big thing with us is, we’re not so much a movement or physical theatre company where we want to use silks or another discipline to, for instance, take a break from the story and focus on a character, focus on a moment or a character’s internal journey and express that through the silks. What we want to do is incorporate the physical discipline into the scenes, continuing the story, while dialogue is going on, having interactions between characters. So it’s less of taking a moment in time and looking at, for instance, an internal journey, rather it’s actually physically incorporating the silks as the main set of the piece into what the characters are trying to achieve in the moment, with each other. So overall, it’s really continuing the storytelling.

Lindsay B: We try to keep it fluid and try to avoid making it disjointed or making it seem contrived. We’re really trying to mesh them together in a seamless way.

Weu00EFrd Totem

MM: So you interact with the silks in the way actors interact with the furniture onstage or with props onstage?

Linsday B: Yeah. Or sometimes with a character. Because [the silks] do move, and you have to be able to react to those kinds of things. Something that I discovered through the process was realizing how much it was going to be like having another person there. Usually the set is stagnant. You pick up a prop and put it down, and it stays there. Whereas with this, the slightest breeze will move the silks, and your own movement will have a ripple effect through it, and that changes the way you have to react to it, constantly.

Polly: And it’s really interesting inheriting the silks. Let’s say Lindsay’s done a charm, and then the next person who approaches the silks has to deal with the way they’re all twisted up and the directions in which they’ve gone. When we were rehearsing in isolation, it was a non issue. The silks would be straight down but then it’s interesting to go into that again. 

MM: I know that Lindsay B has trained in silks. Have the rest of you trained as well?

Lindsay SE: Nope, just with this process! (laughs) 

MM: So how did you get mixed up in this crazy business?

Lindsay SE: I don’t know! (laughs) I’m friends with Lindsay and Phil and they asked me to be a part of the project. Partially, I think, because they know that I am passionate about creating things and taking a very physical approach to theatre, which I think is really cool and really important. I thought the silks were a brilliant idea. I said, “That sounds amazing! It’s going to be so cool!” And I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t really just HOW difficult it was going to be. I’m like, “I didn’t know I owned those muscles!” Whenever you see someone performing aerial silks or circus arts or anything like that, they just make it look so easy. We realize that they’re working, but I don’t think people realize just HOW hard it is, even to just get off the ground.

Polly: You have had more time than I have to start learning how to do the silks, and I’m ecstatic when I can even get an inch off the ground, so I’m so impressed with what Lindsay B can do. The way I got involved in the project is stage combat. I know Dan Levinson from Rapier Wit, where I did my Intermediate with them last June, and he knows Phil, who did his Advanced with them, so that’s our connection.

Philip: That fits right in with our company. It’s not just circus arts or aerial silks, but it is really rigorous physical discipline. So we’ve got an aerial performer in the show [Lindsay B], we’ve got someone with a lot of experience with dance [Lindsay SE] and then we’ve got someone who has a lot of experience training with stage combat [Polly]. We’ve got three separate physical disciplines that we’ve been able to incorporate into the same piece, and it’s been amazing how well the three of them have actually flowed together, how seamlessly they’ve worked together as part of the whole piece. I feel like the reason why it has worked so well that way is that whenever we are focusing on a moment where one of those disciplines or one of those physical aspects is really coming out, we keep going back to the text. We go back to “how is this actually forwarding the story? How are we staying in the scene? How is this not stepping out and being its own thing?” So as a result, we’ve worked the scenes and we look at them afterwards, and there’s this moment of realizing “Oh, right, you did some aerial in there, you did some dance, and there was even some stage combat in there” and we realized we couldn’t actually tell where one started and one began. At least not consciously, because all we see is the full scene and what’s progressing with the story.

Lindsay B: It’s interesting how much ground work in dance and movement [Lindsay SE] has been working on while I’m thinking vertically, and having Polly always being on us about text. Which has been very helpful to always be pulling it back to “Why are we doing that?” text-wise and character-wise. We have a fight scene in there, and it’s my first fight scene. It’s been really interesting for me because I’m learning things too.

Lindsay SE: I just wanted to comment briefly because you touched on the text and I wanted to say how cool it is that we’re using all text from Macbeth. It’s the witches’ scenes, and we’ve pulled a little bit of text from other scenes that fits into the story that we’re telling. It’s all from the story, it’s all from Macbeth.

IMG_20141011_143944

MM: So there’s no original text?

Philip: No original. Basically, we have the witches scenes from the actual play. We’ve even changed those up a little bit. Sometimes there are lines from other parts of the play added in, but we also have the moments with the witches where we DON’T see them in Macbeth. It’s ‘what is happening in between those scenes?’ and those scenes in our piece are what’s formed out of text from other scenes in the play itself that other characters say. Sometimes it’s been an entire page almost of Shakespearean text that another character says literally the way it is, that could transfer to the witches’ story perfectly, and we have moments where we have four lines, and each of those lines have words from different parts of the play to form the line. Some of them are very quick jumps from one part of the text to the other, but it all works seamlessly so it is the story of the witches, whether we’re used to seeing them in Macbeth, or whether it’s some place or time that we’re seeing in between that’s completely new.

MM: So how did you come up with this concept? I’ve not heard of anything like this happening before. There are physical-based theatre companies, but none that seem to be so text focused.

Philip: Amazing! That’s great to hear. We originally thought of the idea for this show because we were talking about the possibility of working with a pop-up theatre company who was looking for some stuff, and the only information we could get from them about what they might want from us is ‘some aerial, maybe some other physical stuff, maybe some classical text, you know, everything, whatever’. So we were like, ‘okay, we need to figure out something that works that will play to our strengths, the aerial, Shakespeare, classical text, and we can develop a piece that will work outside or inside, where we can set up the rig literally in any space, and have either part of the show work if it’s a ten minute version that they want, or a full length show’ so we started working with the idea of the witches because that made the most sense in terms of things that we could think of off the top of our heads that was Shakespeare that would be easy to incorporate in terms of silks in a very believable way that they audience could buy into. So we just started working on it on our own, and then we thought ‘fuck it, let’s do it on our own!’ Which is great, because when we have other opportunities, like if we wanted to do it at events, it’s a very easy piece to adapt sections to that. 

MM: For something that seems so complex, you guys are talking about it as though it’s very easy and fluid.

Lindsay SE: Well, sure there are challenges of course, but I don’t think there was anything that was super hard to pull in and have to work really hard to make something work in terms of the storytelling. I feel like the storytelling isn’t a stretch.

Polly: Like with anything, you compartmentalize and then you work bits and it comes together, layer by layer. Like a cake.

Philip: And everyone has endured the weather with us.

Lindsay SE: We’ve been lucky, I think, to work outside for a lot of the rehearsals. It’s been really neat to have the challenges in terms of weather and wind and rain. I think it all added to the process, because in the play, the witches scenes take place outside, so it’s just added a lot to what we’ve been able to do.

Lindsay B: And we’ve been playing to people in their apartments. It’s been a very communal experience. We’ve met so many people in our building because of it. We even drew out another aerialist! There’s another aerialist who lives in the building which I found out because I had my rig up and she was so interested. We’ve been working with our feet in the dirt. We’ve got such a great cast. Sometimes it’s wet. Sometimes it’s muddy. I wish I could provide a better space and it’s like, ‘sorry guys, please slog through this with us, we have no budget’ but it’s been a cool experience and we’ve found amazing people with really good attitudes.

MM: How would you sum up Weïrd?

Linsday B: Sisterhood.

Polly: Collaboration.

Philip: Immersive.

Lindsay SE: Storytelling.

Weïrd

Presented by Theatre Arcturus

Weu00EFrd Poster Final Small

Deal: Bring your Weïrd ticket to Mill Street Brew Pub or Beer Hall before or after the performance on the day of the performance to receive 15% off food!

When: Shows Oct 17 8pm, Oct 18 2pm, 8pm, and Oct 19 2pm, 8pm.

Where: Playing at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery Historic District

CAST
Witch 1………………………….Lindsay Bellaire
Witch 2……………………Lindsay Sippel Eitzen
Witch 3…………………………….Polly Phokeev
ARTISTIC TEAM
Director……………………………Phillip Psutka
Stage Manager……………Alexandra Brennan
Choreographer…………………Lindsay Bellaire
Fight Director……………………..Phillip Psutka

Tickets:  http://www.theatrearcturus.ca/en/shows/runs-october-17–19-tickets-now-available

“A Harmful Bit of Fun” – Interview with Richard Harte on One Little Goat’s Ubu Mayor

Interview by Madryn McCabe

MMC: Could you tell me a little bit about the show? 

Richard Harte: UBU Mayor is a collision between Alfred Jarry’s outrageous 1896 masterpiece, Ubu Roi, and the dizzying world of Toronto’s mayoral politics. So instead of the king from Jarry’s play, we have a mayor (Ubu) whose wife (Huhu) is having an affair with his older brother (Dudu). Ubu wants Huhu to love him again; Ubu wants what’s best for the city; but both his love and political ideals are foiled by brother Dudu’s machinations.

MMC: What inspired the merging of the Ubu Roi story and the Ford brothers? 

RH: I think Jarry’s original play, which scandalized audiences in 1896, is a natural fit with the antics of the Ford brothers, which have of course scandalized Toronto and beyond. The One Little Goat twitter account  has been putting up quotations from the original Ubu Roi and the Ford brothers, and it’s hilarious (or alarming) how similar their language resembles each other.

MMC: What makes this a “play with music” instead of a “musical”? 

RH: I think I have this right – Adam Seelig, playwright and director of One Little Goat, intended on writing strictly a play, but soon found himself at his piano writing a song about bacon. So there was an organic transformation from a play, to a play with songs in it. I don’t think he intended to write a musical at all! That being said, i think the musical elements have come together extremely well, both serving the story of UBU Mayor, and also because we have an ace band, led by Tyler Emond on bass, Jeff Halischuk on drums, and our director Adam on piano.

(L-R) Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, Richard Harte, and Adam Seelig.

(L-R) Astrid Van Wieren, Michael Dufays, Richard Harte, and Adam Seelig.

MMC: What were the challenges in putting this show together? 

RH: From my perspective, the challenges lay in discovering how a brand new play works, hearing it for the first time, trying out new songs, having the voices of three different performers blend together, and remembering how to bring a story to life. Believe me, all of these challenges are challenging, but they’re also extremely fun. Not a day went by in the rehearsal hall that wasn’t filled with laughter. My comrades in this play are Michael Dufays, who plays the mayor’s brother, and Astrid Van Wieren, the mayor’s wife, and they are simply wonderful company, inventive, playful, and generous. I gush, I know.

MMC: I hear there’s bacon in the show, actually cooked onstage. Can you tell me more about it, or will that give away a major surprise? 

RH: Initially the plan was to cook bacon during the course of the play. We discovered it wasn’t feasible, so it is instead accomplished with a little theatre magic (or rather, with the magic of pre-made bacon).

MMC: Is there anything else you’d like your audience to know? 

RH: I think they’ll have a great time! 9 shows only! Call 416 915 0201 – no service fees!

MMC: Sum up the show in five words or less! 

RH: I’m going to cheat here – the playwright has given me this one right in the title: A harmful bit of fun.

Ubu Mayor poster

**One Little Goat is running a promo called “Gravy Train” Sundays!** 
“Gravy Train” Sundays: $15.00 tickets to UBU MAYOR on Sun Sept 14 & 21.
Book tickets by phone (416) 915-0201 (no service fees), online, or in person (also no service fees).

Connect with One Little Goat: @1LGoat

Website: http://onelittlegoat.org/ubu-mayor/

Connect with ITGR writer Madryn McCabe: @FuriousMAD